Mixing Circuit breaker brands

When inspecting an electrical panel, it is commonplace to call out mismatched circuit breakers. An electrical panel is designed to use its own breakers and rarely those of another company. In the less common case when a panel can use other breakers, it should be detailed in the panel’s instruction manual, which would need to be reviewed by a licensed electrician.

Mismatched circuit breakers in an electrical panel are usually found more as a problem with older panels where upgrades by homeowners or handymen may have been done without confirming compatibility. Or if a company no longer exists and third-party breakers are used.

An installer may believe that since they fit, it is ok to use them, but that is not the case. Panels are tested to be used with their specific circuit breakers, and using one that it is not designed for will create potential hazards such as arcing, overheating, or electrical fires.

Other issues with mixing breakers are that the panel’s warranty could be voided, leaving the owner liable for any damage that may be done. Also, the performance of the panel could be inconsistent, as a circuit breaker is designed to work with its specific panel, and if the compatibility is lacking, the breakers may not trip properly when they need to.

Considering the risks, as a home inspector, it is important to call out mixed breakers and have an electrician review and correct mismatched breakers if needed. By doing so, you can help ensure the safety and functionality of the electrical system for the homeowner and avoid potential hazards or costly damages in the future.